Politics & Policies

COVID and Jobs at the Local Level – Community-driven, evidence-based approaches to better link and prepare workers for the good jobs that do and will exist

When a durable recovery strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic finally emerges, it will confront not just one badly damaged economy, but numerous fractured economies. The pandemic recession is hitting some sectors harder than others, with regions dependent on manufacturing and hospitality particularly devastated. Even state and local government jobs have taken a hit, which will likely get worse in the coming months. And within these hard-hit industries, the young, the less educated, and workers of color have borne the worst of the job losses.

For many of these workers, their old jobs won’t be coming back, even as the economy continues to reopen. Industries likely to expand in response to the pandemic—health care, medical device and supply manufacturing, and telecommunications equipment and software to support remote work and learning—require particular skill sets and greater education and training than many laid-off, lower-skilled workers currently possess. Additionally, evidence suggests that recessions cause many employers to permanently raise skill requirements as they retool their operations, making remaining jobs further out of reach for job seekers.

Despite this dire picture, local leaders can take steps to ameliorate the damage and accelerate recovery in their communities, even as budgets are stressed and federal aid is uncertain. We have identified several community-driven, evidence-based approaches to better link and prepare workers for the good jobs that do and will exist. Implementing these initiatives often requires community leadership, partnership-building, and better leveraging of existing resources. Such coordination can be harder to achieve than, for example, grants to conventional training programs. But it is also more likely to generate true economic opportunity and help overcome long-standing inequities in education and employment practices affecting people of color.

Place-based scholarship or “Promise” programs can be an effective tool to increase residents’ skills, not just by helping more residents get needed postsecondary education, but also by attracting highly skilled newcomers and families that value education. Promise programs can also close educational attainment gaps and deliver on community equity goals, increasing skills and improving workforce outcomes broadly across racial and demographic groups. Some programs now include apprenticeship opportunities in manufacturing, nursing, and IT. In some cases, funding for these programs comes from private sources, but many draw revenues from relatively stable tax increment financing, state funds, or federal transfers.

Promise programs to increase workforce skills can also be relatively inexpensively extended to adult learners.

Education-to-workforce pipelines are another option for communities looking to better match evolving employer occupational demands with robust career preparation. These programs involve partnerships between businesses and training providers, with financial support from both as well as other philanthropic sources.

Adopting customized business services and new technologies for job searching are also strategies that communities could use to match employer skill demand with local worker supply. Traditional economic development relies too heavily on tax incentives to businesses, while traditional workforce development relies too much on general training. Neither works particularly well. In contrast, training that is customized for specific employers or narrowly defined industries has been found to be a cost-effective employment strategy that tends to benefit local workers. Funding for such training can be repurposed from budgeted tax incentives and state and federal training grants.

New tools and technologies can also be deployed to help job seekers better access information about available jobs and the skills and training needed for them.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ In many communities, COVID-19 will permanently kill jobs. Here’s how they can respond.

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